Thwarted July 1 marcher back in jail

Activist Li Guizhi, who fled illegal custody in her hometown in Hebei two weeks ago after trying to attend the July 1 rally in Hong Kong, has been caught in Sichuan and returned to a 'black jail'.

The 57-year-old, left nearly deaf and blind through torture in custody, enjoyed just a week of freedom before the Hebei police chief and at least six plain-clothes security personnel went to her safe house in Sichuan yesterday. More officers had surrounded the building.

'I definitely won't go with them. They must kill me on the way. I beg you, Mr Reporter ... they are going to kill me,' she cried over the phone. News of her rearrest emerged yesterday afternoon.

Liu Weiping, chairman of Hong Kong-based People's Rights Union of China, condemned the re-arrest and demanded that other activists be immediately released.

'She did not breach any law this time,' Liu said. 'She just wanted to take a rest in safety. The detention has no legal grounds at all.'

He said that at 1pm a village leader went to Li's place to conduct a 'registration', with a secretary secretly taking photos, then security personnel arrived an hour later.

'White terror has filled mainland China now. They don't even let go of a nearly blind old woman,' he said.

A guard from a rights group who had been protecting Li at the safe house said: 'If you are taking her away, I am going to risk my life to fight this.'

After a stand-off lasting more than an hour, at least 10 hired thugs went to the safe house carrying ropes. 'The old woman was very frightened and went with them,' Liu said.

Last night Li was being detained in another 'black jail' - a hotel room in Wanyuan, Sichuan. The Hebei police chief was nearby and Liu predicted that she would eventually be taken back to Hebei.

Although Li had bought two phone cards with new numbers, Liu believes his phone calls to her led officials to discover the location of the safe house.

In late June, Li, who wanted to take part in the July 1 rally, was denied entry to Hong Kong at the Shenzhen border. Security personnel then pursued and arrested her in a hotel in Panyu, Guangdong, on July 1. They subsequently sent her to a 'black jail' in her hometown. She fled custody on July 17, and travelled hundreds of kilometres to a safe place.

Li has been petitioning for an investigation into the suspicious death of her son since 2006. Authorities said her son, a police officer, died in a traffic accident. But Li rejected this explanation, believing he had been killed after learning about illicit drugs involving his boss.

She has been repeatedly tortured during more than 10 spells in 'black jails' for illegally petitioning.

Two other activists, Song Ningsheng and Zeng Jiuzi, who did take part in the July 1 rally, were sent to a labour camp for 14 months for protesting in Hong Kong.